Fylde bridging gap in title race

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Bamber Bridge 0, AFC Fylde 1

Fylde were 16 points off the pace in the Evo-Stik First Division North in early November.

This fourth successive victory by Dave Challinor’s side closed the gap on leaders Curzon Ashton to just five and cemented their top-four place.

Ritchie Allen scored the only goal on the hour, taking his total for the season to 21, in a hard-fought derby.

Against a determined home side that included three former Fylde players, the Coasters won a scrappy contest.

In only the second minute, Allen played a fantastic ball across the face of the goal for Michael Barnes to slot in from three yards but somehow he sent the ball over the bar.

Fylde continued to pressurise, and Glenn Steel was beaten to the ball by goalkeeper Lee Dovey as he tried to get on the end of a Joe Booth corner, and within 60 seconds Booth saw his attempt deflected wide.

With 12 minutes gone, another Michael Barnes attempt sailed wide.

The home side failed to capitalise on two free-kicks within five minutes, from almost the exact same spot 25 yards out to the left of the goal.

The first attempt was weak from Danny Mahoney and the second on 26 minutes was better but just too high for Simon Lakeland at the far post.

Allen and Booth couldn’t convert further chances and neither could debutant Leon McLoughlin for Brig, so both sides went in level at half-time.

In the second half, Bamber Bridge started the stronger and it was against the run of play that Allen eventually scored the winner.

After Allen failed to score when a blocked shot rebounded to him on the edge of the box, Alistair Waddecar, Matt Mahoney and McLoughlin were all denied by a sturdy Fylde defence.

But with an hour gone, Allen was played in by a brilliant ball from Bradley Barnes, and after turning his marker he fired past the onrushing Dovey to score.

Two minutes later, Michael Barnes had his shot saved by Dovey and then Bradley Barnes could only fire the rebound straight at the on-form keeper.

With 20 minutes to go, substitute Keigan Parker was played through by Allen and did well to win the ball from Matt Lawler on the edge of the box only to send his shot wide from 12 yards.

McLoughlin then had another attempt for Brig on 76 minutes, when he was able to find a way to the edge of the box and fire a shot at goal ,but it was no trouble for goalkeeper Zac Jones, who watched it trickle wide.

The game petered out, but in the dying seconds Parker was played through one-on-one with Dovey and the keeper stayed tall to deny the striker.

It was another well-worked win for the Coasters, and after top two Curzon and Skelmersdale United both slipped up, Fylde are well placed, with several games in hand on two of the three teams above them.

fylde: Jones, Heywood, Sumner, Doughty, Steel (C), B. Barnes, Booth, Kay (Parker 66), Fowler (Mercer 81), M. Barnes, Allen (Jarvis 79); Subs not used: McDonald, Nightingale.